COACH Speaks

Dr. Darren Larsen on Tomorrow's Leaders, Overcoming Professional Failure & More
Posted Wednesday October 5, 2016 3:10 PM - MacVicar-Elliott, RoseMary
Sanya Palli is a COACH Member and a Business Analyst at the Department of Family Medicine, McMaster University.

Dr. Darren Larsen is the CMIO at OntarioMD, Vice Chair of Cancer Quality Council of Ontario and a family physician at Women’s College Hospital. He is also gregarious, has a cheerful, infectious personality and is one of the hardest working people I have met. He likes to quote the book "A Wrinkle in Time" as follows, “The shortest path from A to B is never a straight line.” As an emerging professional, I recently sat down to talk with Dr. Larsen about his advice for the new generation of leaders and his opinions on how to overcome professional failures, major changes that are not being addressed in health informatics (HI) and the inspiration that healthcare can draw from other industries. To read more about Dr. Larsen’s ideas for healthcare, visit

Advice to the New Generation of HI leaders 
"The first thing is, you need to be patient. Things never happen at the pace you want them to happen. You need to show up, be involved and ask questions. What I see in the new generation of leaders is a lot of optimism, which is amazing. They don’t see the same barriers or boundaries that the previous generations did. The downside of this is there can be watering down of realism. It’s important to find mentors who can balance unbridled optimism or idealism and put it into context.

"But what I do see manifesting is, 'If I can’t get this job, I’ll get yet another degree.' This constant need to progress up that professional skill pyramid with more and more degrees does two things:
1) Keeps people protected from the really hard work of working and doesn’t let them develop experience;
2) We’re overtraining people to the point of them being obsolete before they even launch their career because they’re in such a tight niche that there
are fewer jobs to choose from.

"Accept the fact that you’ve trained enough and you need to start working and get skills. The training that you get at work leads to wisdom, as it is grounded in practicality and real world outcomes, and is nothing compared to the training you will get when you’re at school."

Overcoming Professional Failures with Optimism
"A recent example of failure in my life is the nearly three years of effort a few colleagues and I poured into an electronic medical records (EMR) data analytics strategy for the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) called Insights4Care. I truly believed that this would be an absolute game changer for our profession, at a time when physicians were feeling beleaguered due to their poor relationship with the government. This went really far, until it was cancelled in April.

"Reasons for failure: This project was defeated by bad luck and bad timing, launched at a point of time when our big audacious goal was simply not accessible. That was a failure, not necessarily because we did something wrong, but rather due to a series of unforeseen circumstances that none of us had any control over.

"On the other hand, optimism comes from the fact that even though a project we felt personally very close to didn’t happen, it was not because of people or the sponsors, but rather the period we were working in, where the world was not ready to consume it. Optimistic feelings come from the fact that it’s okay, and we’re okay. The product concept remains very strong, the ideas are still very important, conversations regarding governance happened, and in the end we advanced things. So on to the next thing.

"How do you maximize the best in everything, and learn from the stuff that doesn’t go right, and not predict the future from a point of pessimism? You start surrounding yourself with people who are positive, who are moving ahead, and who constantly see the world as full of opportunity, even when they are in hardship."

Major Changes Health Informatics will Bring into Primary Care that are not Being Addressed
"Patients need access to their data. It’s their data, we house it. But we don’t own it. Patients own it. The reason they need access to it is because 99.99% of the time, they are looking after themselves and, as healthcare providers, we’re not there.

"The second piece is the use of aggregated data set as it’s being collected, and stewarding its use for good, not evil. Ultimately the patient should decide what their data could and should be used for. System level planning with public dollars needs accurate data to do that planning properly, so there must be rules to free data up so that we all benefit. The liberation and linking of data in our health IT systems is the next big wave, and along that comes analytics and decision support.

"The governance and policy issues around sharing are also a huge opportunity for emerging leaders, as currently, there’s a vacuum in governance and policy. A lot of the health IT folk stick purely to the informatics pieces because they are easy to comprehend. The really tough stuff comes with the rules of engagement. If we don’t get that right, all the data itself is irrelevant, since no one will be allowed to touch it, and that’s not helpful either.

"I also have views about patient-generated data. There’s going to be lots of it, but much of it is ‘normal’ so not clinically useful. Having wearable device-generated data available instantly at all times is not necessarily advancement, because then curating it becomes an absolute nightmare. My view on wearables and the mountain of potential patient-generated data is that we must create informatics systems that alert me when something is amiss. I just want to see the insights."

Drawing Inspiration from Other Industries on Change Management Practices in Healthcare
"In our change management role at OntarioMD we have moved from always viewing our clients purely as accounts. When we were handing dollars to doctors, funding EMR purchases and selling the concept of EMR implementation, the company worked in this way. Every client was registered with us because we were funding their EMR procurements and we needed to account for that money. We built a culture around account management. But now we are completely changing that view to one of relationship management.

"The inspiration we get from other industries is largely from tourism and hotel management. For example, in the Ritz Carlton customer service view of the world, if you are a customer there and you have a problem, you report it to anybody. The person you report it owns that problem and they are responsible for ultimately seeing through its completion.

"When doctors come to OntarioMD and they say they have a problem, we can’t just say, 'That’s an eHealth problem,' or "That’s a government problem,” or 'That’s an OMA problem.' Instead we say, “We’ve heard you, we have your back, we’re here to help you. Let us carry through this process and advocate for you.' We call ourselves trusted advisors, and it behooves us to act with trust built on solid relationships.

"We also have a lot to learn from the analytics side/enterprise view of the world from Big corporate America or Canada…The Walmarts of the world…companies which have very dominant market share and manage their data and the insights to get from that data with immediacy and an enterprise view of their work.

"We can also learn from professional sports. I find the dedication of Olympic athletes to be absolutely inspirational. They give up portions of their life, just like we do in medicine and healthcare, to become the best they can possibly be. I think we have a lot to learn from that degree of focus.

"And we have something to learn from the entertainment industry about how it engage people through social media. In healthcare we say, 'We don’t understand the benefits of Twitter or Snapchat so we’re just not going to go there.' And my point is, we have to go there. We have to meet people where they are. The bottom line is we can learn from every industry if we allow ourselves to listen and pay attention." 
Last Updated Wednesday October 5, 2016 4:48 PM - MacVicar-Elliott, RoseMary
Add Comment

Building Your Personal Brand with COACH
Posted Thursday September 8, 2016 3:19 PM - MacVicar-Elliott, RoseMary
IrinaBy Irina Voronin, COACH Emerging Professional Member

Irina Voronin currently works at Inspira Financial, a publicly-traded company (LND.V) that offers a full suite of financial services and practice management tools to the growing mental health and addiction services industry. In her role as an Electronic Medical Records (EMR) Business Analyst, Irina liaises between Inspira’s Software Engineering Team and the Product Development Team, in order to develop enhanced revenue cycle management software for healthcare providers based in the mental health and addiction services industry. To learn more about Irina’s educational background and work experience visit

With the field still relatively young, starting a career in health informatics (HI) can be both exciting and overwhelming – especially when any discussion of your profession must begin by clarifying the definition of HI. In this blog, I will share how COACH has helped me build and define my personal brand.

Knowledge and Information 
Career MatrixThree years ago I decided to jump into the newly emerging field of HI. Despite having worked with EMR systems as a veterinary assistant throughout high school and university, I didn’t realize that an interdisciplinary
field, bringing together expertise in healthcare, business and information science and technology, had begun to evolve. It wasn’t until I applied for graduate school that I started to learn about the many opportunities that exist in health IT. In fact, it was COACH’s HI Professional Career Matrix (PDF) that made me realize the number of directions my career could take. As a working professional, I keep up to date with upcoming projects and health IT news by following COACH LinkedIn and other social media updates and taking advantage of learning opportunities offered online and at conferences and events.

Finding your first full-time job in a new industry can be challenging. However, launching a career in a field in its early stages can have its benefits. As a
COACH member, I was able to attend unique conferences and events, where I had the opportunity to share my graduate school experience with various stakeholders. Sharing my practicum experience with industry experts not only helped me further define the skills health informaticians bring to complex projects, but it also allowed me to develop a better understanding of where the gaps are when it comes to the job market.

Tools and Resources 
As an emerging professional, I found that the best way to maximize the benefits of having a COACH membership is by taking advantage of the opportunities available to you – especially when you are a student! I have enriched my learning experience by taking part in various initiatives such as volunteering at the 
e-Health Conference and supporting the Webinar Wednesday series as a moderator. Overall, getting involved in COACH-sponsored activities has helped me enhance my relationships with my peers and make connections with industry experts, while allowing me to further explore my professional interests and build my skill set.

Creating your personal brand can be mentally taxing. Backstage, you must take into consideration your strengths, limitations, values and wisdom. Onstage, emerging professionals must leverage the resources they have to promote their brand. COACH has the network and the resources to help you realize your potential; you just have to bring your “A” game in order to succeed.   

*Bloggers Wanted: If you're a COACH member in the first five years of your health informatics career, grow your skills and network as a volunteer blogger, event host and more. Start by completing the Emerging Professionals Call for Involvement Application and contact the team,, for details.

*Updated Matrix: The Career Matrix and other COACH career tools are being updated to reflect new roles and other changes impacting the profession. Watch for these updated resources later this year.

Last Updated Thursday September 8, 2016 3:22 PM - MacVicar-Elliott, RoseMary
Add Comment

The Rise of Technology in Healthcare & HI Professionals’ Integral Role
Posted Tuesday August 23, 2016 5:18 PM - MacVicar-Elliott, RoseMary
Keval RanpariaBy Keval Ranparia, COACH Emerging Professional Member

For quite a long time, medical records were captured, stored and shared in paper and films. The rise of information technology in healthcare has enabled more effective and efficient medical record transactions. Now the healthcare industry is looking forward to converting electronic data from these records into meaningful information in order to make innovative changes in the healthcare system.

As an avid health informatics (HI) emerging professional (EP), I wanted to understand the nature of this paradigm shift and the role of EPs in it. In a recent conversation with Dr. Aviv Gladman (pictured below), I gained insight about the upheaval around implementing technology in healthcare and the resulting disruptive changes. As Chief Medical Information Officer with Mackenzie Health, Dr. Gladman has a critical care clinical practice and is a thought leader. He is a graduate of Engineering Science and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Toronto with expertise in intelligent workflow automation, the Internet of Healthcare Things (IoHT), clinician engagement and disruptive change. Here are some ideas based on my
discussion with Dr. Gladman.

Dr. Aviv GladmanTechnological advancement has not made the same impact in healthcare compared to other industries, partly because of the complexity of healthcare organizations and systems and partly because of the inherent resistance to automation. However, in recent years, technology has been significantly involved in healthcare due to population growth, staffing shortages and the demand for high-quality care. Government policy changes have also helped hospitals push the innovation agenda at the organizational level. Technological advances in electronic medical records (EMRs) are allowing them to have better interoperability within different departments. In addition, the IoHT is fundamentally changing the delivery of healthcare by unifying communications and information exchange in unprecedented ways and by delivering the right information and resources at the right time to the point of care.

LEAN and Agile
The biggest challenge in healthcare lies in implementation of new technology in a heterogeneous system. The key to success is to make changes, not just in technology, but also in process improvement and implementation strategies. For example, in order to improve the delivery of healthcare, Mackenzie Health has adapted the LEAN methodology, which has been widely successful in many other industries. Historically, other industries have adopted a “top-down” approach, where top management with subject matter experts drives the process of change and is responsible for adapting culture for the LEAN methodology. However, in healthcare, it is wise to adapt a “bottom-to-top” approach by including representatives from all departments on a steering committee to drive the change, as the requirement for change comes from all the different factions of the organization.

The method that is widely used in healthcare IT product development is the “Agile” methodology, which empowers end users to take control of the software development process by providing recommendations on each sprint of Agile. Out-of-the-box thinking about implementing well-established methodologies such as LEAN and Agile in a customized manner to fit the healthcare setting has enabled initiatives such as the Mackenzie Health “Time and Motion Study” to happen. This study involves collecting data from smart beds and hand hygiene devices for statistical analysis to improve workflow efficiency.

Collaboration, Innovators & HI Professionals
The primary focus on patient-centric health delivery at most healthcare organizations can make it difficult to focus on technological innovation. Collaboration with industry innovators can help organizations implement innovation projects efficiently by allowing them to define clinical problems and provide a platform for innovators to implement the right technology with systematic process. HI professionals are integral to this collaboration. Skilled in information technology, business processes and medical workflow, they enable medical technology procurement and its maintenance.

“HI professionals need to be provided with a platform where they can work with clinical staff to understand the ground-level reality and clinical workflow." said Dr. Gladman. "Professionals can acquire knowledge of information technology and business process management by taking courses available in market. However, to understand clinical workflow, professionals have to work in a hospital setting with clinical staff.”

About Mackenzie Health
Mackenzie Health is a regional healthcare provider serving a population of over a half million people in Southwest York Region and beyond. Mackenzie Health includes Mackenzie Richmond Hill Hospital, the future Mackenzie Vaughan Hospital and a comprehensive network of community-based services in Richmond Hill, Vaughan and the surrounding communities. An award-winning organization, Mackenzie Health has been nationally and provincially recognized with: Accreditation with Exemplary Standing, Stroke Distinction Accreditation, Innovation Award for Healthcare Leadership, National Healthcare Safety Award, National Award for Excellence in Nursing Leadership, Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) Best Practice Spotlight Designation, and Gold Quality Healthcare Workplace Award.

EP Volunteers Wanted: If you’re in the first five years of your HI career, polish your skills and grow your network by blogging for COACH Speaks, hosting events and more with COACH. To get started, please complete the Emerging Professionals Call for Involvement Application and contact the team,, for details.

HI Education: To learn more about the topics discussed in this blog, check out the COACH Webinar Wednesdays and the CPHIMS-CA Virtual Preparation Course.

Last Updated Wednesday August 24, 2016 4:21 PM - MacVicar-Elliott, RoseMary
Add Comment

My e-Spin on the e-Health Conference: Winning Deal of Fortune
Posted Wednesday July 20, 2016 10:30 AM - MacVicar-Elliott, RoseMary

Gurprit RandhawaBy Gurprit Randhawa, BSc, MSc, PhD(c) Health Informatics
Gurprit is a Program Coordinator for a provincial quality improvement program at Island Health in Victoria, BC. She is also a Health Informatics Instructor at McMaster University and the 2016 Steven Huesing Scholarship recipient.

Can I buy a vowel to spell "wow"? Actually, I would most definitely need to buy all of the vowels to describe my exceptional experience at the 
e-Health 2016 Conference in Vancouver, BC from June 5-8, 2016. My conference experience was no less than being a bonus round winner on the Wheel of Fortune. For full effect, please imagine Vanna White turning each of the letters below.

A: Awe-Inspiring
Throughout the conference, I was struck by the enthusiastic passion to advance health informatics (HI) that was demonstrated by delegates, volunteers, speakers and COACH staff; I am deeply grateful for their infectious and inspiring energy. My interactions with these individuals truly reinforced the theme of the conference: Reimagining Healthcare Delivery in Canada. As a result, I have a renewed vision for the role we all play as health informaticians in redesigning the Canadian healthcare system.

E: Enjoyable
From the Welcome Reception to the e-Health Fun Run, and various networking mixers, Canadian Health Informatics Awards Gala and after parties, I enjoyed all the good company, food and fun tremendously. Without a doubt, the photo contest at the COACH booth and various exhibitor games (with prizes) were entertaining additions to the conference. I am afraid the memory of colleagues disco dancing at the Blues night may be forever etched in my mind!

I: Intellectually-Stimulating
With 122 concurrent sessions, 61 e-posters, 12 panel discussions and six plenary sessions, there was definitely no shortage of intellectual stimulation at the conference. In fact, I was constantly in a HI "knowledge wonderland." The great variety of topics covered allowed me to customize my learning plan to my professional, academic and research needs. Moreover, my discoveries from the conference have further informed and fuelled my current and future projects. The conference provided the perfect environment for planting and fostering the intellectual seeds of innovation in the minds of HI professionals.

e-Health 2016O: Oceanic
Sweeping mountains, ocean views and beautiful beaches – what more could one ask for in a conference location? Attending the conference at the Vancouver Convention Centre was a sure treat. Having 30 degree weather in early June was also an unexpected and unforgettable surprise.

U: Us
The highly supportive environment of the e-Health conference truly brought everyone together as one big HI family. I strongly felt the conference was about "us," our needs, and how "we" plan to work together closely to build our reimagined future. Now is our moment – I am eager to seize it with my other HI family members. As the saying goes, "Make hay while the sun shines."

e-Health 2016 Photo Gallery

e-Health 2016e-Health 2017: To stay up-to-date with plans for next year’s conference, sign up for email through the "Newsletter" link on the e-Health site. Circle June 4 -7, 2017 for e-Health 2017 in Toronto and watch for the call for presenters – abstracts will be invited this fall!

EPs: Blogs, White Papers, Event Hosting & More! If you are a COACH member in the first five years of your HI career, there are many amazing opportunities, like writing a COACH Speaks blog, to network, learn and engage with other professionals through your association. To get started, please complete the 
Emerging Professionals Call for Involvement Application and contact the team,, for details.

Last Updated Wednesday July 20, 2016 11:19 AM - MacVicar-Elliott, RoseMary
Add Comment

Why Earn Your CPHIMS-CA Credential?
Posted Friday June 3, 2016 4:00 PM - MacVicar-Elliott, RoseMary
Note: Hafsa Qureshi Grymek prepared this interview as part of the COACH eHIP: Emerging Health Informatics Professionals Forum column for the June HIM&CC Journal. Read more interviews about COACH EP members who are earning their CPHIMS-CA credential in the column.    

Ann ChouBy Ann Chou
After being immersed in a data-centric world as a medical technologist for over eight years and observing enabling technology in evidence-based healthcare, Ann decided to switch to the IT side. Still holding an academic interest in data visualization, Ann currently works as a Clinical Application Analyst providing technical expertise on clinical IT solutions and delivering operation projects with Island Health in British Columbia.

I was excited when our director decided to sponsor my colleagues and I to earn the CPHIMS-CA credential prior to a strategic upgrade in 2014. For me, it was the opportunity to sharpen and extend my professional competency as a health informatics (HI) professional from regional criteria to globally respected criteria. CPHIMS-CA is a single credential that could bridge my clinical background as medical technologist, my combined bachelor’s degree in HI and Computer Science and my work at Island Health in clinical application support and analysis.

For my employer, it was an opportunity to raise the bar and guarantee consistency of skills and knowledge for all personnel involved in initiatives and continuous operation for e-Health and clinical systems, across the team and departmental silos.

For some, this opportunity might not be easy, so I offer some exam preparation tips. In my experience, I found the CPHIMS Candidate Handbook and CPHIMS-CA Canadian (CA) Exam Candidate Handbook were the first and best sources for exam preparation. At a minimum, download both handbooks to become familiar with the exam content outlines and evaluate your own knowledge in each category. If you are a student completing a HI program, you can probably easily pass both exams without further study. However, if you have been out of school for a while or come from a different educational background, such as general IT or a clinical area with no IT training, you may have to study harder, beginning at least 10 weeks prior to your exam.

CPHIMS-CAThe CPHIMS practice exam, available to purchase from the HIMSS website, is another useful resource for studying. The official study guides are also useful, but do not cover all questions in the exams. You should follow the exam content outline and review the content closely. If you find that the information is new, then you should at least Google the concept and study an example that illustrates that concept. If you are unable to commit time, then I suggest joining an exam preparation class or forming a series of study sessions with your colleagues, similar to what my organization did at Island Health.

In the end, getting CPHIMS-CA-certified is a straightforward means to continuing professional development and networking with those who care about and are committed to providing quality healthcare within the HI industry. 

For more information about the credential and CPHIMS-CA education and study guides, visit CPHIMS-CA or contact Christina Vertesi.
Last Updated Friday June 3, 2016 4:22 PM - MacVicar-Elliott, RoseMary
Add Comment
« Previous123Next »